By Ann McCreary

Winthrop and the Methow Valley had a record year in 2016 for the number of visitors, measured by big increases in overnight lodging tax revenues.

Winthrop was up 18 percent in 2016 over 2015’s record-setting year, and the Methow Valley as a whole, including Mazama and Twisp, was up 23 percent last year over 2015’s hotel/motel tax revenues.

“The last three years we have been looking at double-digit increases over the previous year,” said Lori Loomis, a member of the Winthrop Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC).

The Methow Valley and Winthrop have fared better in terms of tourism than some people had expected after the extreme wildfires of 2014 and 2015, and the extensive media coverage the disasters received, Loomis said.

“When the first fires broke out in 2014, we changed how we normally reach people and advertised. We were constantly fighting the fear of the media,” Loomis said. Taxes on overnight lodging are used to promote tourism, with the LTAC providing recommendation on how best to spend the money.

Winthrop’s hotel/motel tax revenues went from $151,041 in 2015 to $177,953 in 2016, said Kristen Smith, marketing director for the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce.

The money has been used for television commercials, radio ads, print ads and social media ads. That advertising has helped increase winter visitation numbers, which look strong this season, Smith said.

In addition to the increase in lodging taxes, Winthrop also saw increases in retail sales tax revenues over the past two years, from $301,935 in 2015 to $338,756 in 2016, Smith said.